Water news you need to know

A collection of top water news from around California and the West compiled each weekday. Send any comments or article submissions to Foundation News & Publications Director Doug Beeman.

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Aquafornia news Patch - San Mateo

Project to protect Bay Area drinking water from wildfires to begin

In an effort to protect the drinking water source for one million Bay Area residents from destructive wildfires, crews will soon work to masticate vegetation on Maple Way around watershed lands. In collaboration with Cal Fire, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, who oversees the SFPUC Peninsula Watershed, will hire contractors to mulch vegetation into small pieces. Reducing the size of vegetation growth will limit the risk of extreme fire around the watershed, the Edgewood County Park and surrounding private property, said Cal Fire.

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Aquafornia news Delta Stewardship Council

Appointments: Dr. Lisa Wainger becomes Chair of the Delta ISB

Dr. Lisa Wainger led her first meeting today as chair of the Delta Independent Science Board. Chair Wainger will guide the Delta ISB for the next two years as they continue promoting independent, peer-reviewed science to support Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta decision-making. … In addition to serving on the Delta ISB since September 2020, Chair Wainger is also a research professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science where she focuses on the optimal design of environmental restoration investments using a suite of ecological and economic models to evaluate costs, benefits, and risks and to identify incentive changes that could motivate action.

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Aquafornia news KQED - San Francisco

As dead fish pile up, the economic and environmental impact of the red tide becomes apparent

Thousands of dead fish have washed up on shores across the Bay Area in recent weeks. A red tide is killing everything from anchovies to sharks. Preventing a similar disaster may cost the region billions of dollars. In late July, Mary Spicer noticed that the water lapping around her kayak started to turn red. A few weeks later it was dark brown. … Jon Rosenfield, senior scientist with environmental group SF Baykeeper, says Heterosigma may be killing fish in two ways: It can produce a toxin that is deadly to fish, but it can also result in low dissolved oxygen levels in the water, which can be deadly.

Aquafornia news Cal Poly Humboldt

News release: Altered male fish could be key to controlling invasive pikeminnow

Rafael Cuevas Uribe wants to rid the Eel River of all female Sacramento pikeminnows in order to help the river’s salmon population. Cuevas Uribe and Andre Buchheister, professors of Fisheries Biology at Cal Poly Humboldt, were recently awarded a $150,000 grant from CalTrout, a non-profit conservation group, to help eliminate the invasive species from the Eel River. … Cuevas Uribe and Buchheister hope to use an aquaculture method of breeding fish that could result in a population of all male fish, keeping the pikeminnow from being able to continue to reproduce. The Trojan Y strategy modifies the genetics of the fish to produce YY males.

Aquafornia news Bloomberg

Wine harvest 2022: Brutal, hot summer means lower yields, hope for good quality

In Portugal’s Douro Valley, the team at the Quinta do Vesuvio winery was stomping picked grapes in ancient stone lagares (troughs) in August. “Never in the history of this great estate, which dates to 1565, have grapes been trodden this early,” says Harry Symington, whose family has been producing premium ports in the Douro for five generations. The nail-biting tale of the 2022 harvest—scorching heat and record-breaking drought that sped up ripening in vineyards from Germany to Paso Robles, Calif.—is another reminder of the power of climate change to upend the wine world. … With a sudden heat dome over Bay Area vineyards on Labor Day weekend and the days following, the rush was on to grab grapes before they turned into juiceless raisins.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Through dry years and wet – and multiple lawsuits – retiring Bakersfield City water leader met challenges cheerfully

Art Chianello, who has led Bakersfield’s Water Resources Department through two of the state’s worst droughts and one of its wettest years on record, is retiring at the end of September. Most municipal water departments are fairly quiet operations. As long as water comes out of taps, not many people pay attention. But the Bakersfield water department is in the unique position of also tracking and managing flows on the Kern River – a highly contentious piece of water – which it partly owns.

Aquafornia news Kronick

Blog: Court rules Water Code section 1052(a) did not allow state to curtail pre-1914 water rights based on 2015 drought conditions

The first appellate court to consider a case regarding California’s curtailments of senior water rights held that the State Water Resources Control Board (“State Water Board” or “Board”) lacked authority under Water Code section 1052(a) to curtail pre-1914 water rights based on the unavailability of water for use under such rights. The curtailment cases began in 2015, in the middle of a multi-year drought, when the State Water Board curtailed the exercise of many water rights across the state in an effort to implement the priority system arising from California’s water laws.

Aquafornia news CNN

Opinion: The country that is showing the world how to save water

Scorching temperatures and reports of water scarcity are grabbing headlines, as drought caused by climate change creates long-term problems for farmers and communities in the United States and around the world. … As frightening and as insurmountable a challenge as chronic and growing water shortages may seem, there are solutions at hand that can save us from crisis. A small country in one of the driest regions in the world is among those that have developed policies and techniques to provide water in cities and farms alike. That country is Israel.
-Written by Seth M. Siegel, author of “Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World” and “Troubled Water: What’s Wrong with What We Drink.” He is currently the Chief Sustainability Officer of N-Drip, a company which developed water-saving technology for agricultural use.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Friday Top of the Scroll: September rain: Will looming storm fight the Mosquito Fire and the drought?

A tantalizing storm headed for California this weekend could help fight the Mosquito Fire — now the state’s largest wildfire of the year — while providing a brief respite from a years-long drought….Some meteorologists and climatologists believe the rains will deliver slight relief from a drought that’s parched the state, left acres of farmland barren and lowered reservoirs. Still, even the most optimistic observers warn that the benefits will be temporary, and the dry period is far from over.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

L.A. conserving water at record levels, but it’s not enough as drought worsens

During a summer of soaring heat, shrinking supplies and mandatory drought restrictions, Los Angeles residents conserved water at an impressive pace in August, with that month’s usage dropping below a record low set during the previous drought. But it’s becoming clear that this alone is not going to be enough. The crisis on the Colorado River, a key source of water for Southern California, is expected to bring painful cuts to supplies in the coming months. And hopes of a wet winter are looking more unlikely with another year of dry La Niña in the forecast. Now, the pressure is on to not only increase savings, but also double-down on efforts to reduce reliance on imported supplies and to invest in long-term water solutions.

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Aquafornia news NPR

Tucson has 5.5 years of excess Colorado River water stowed in a secret reservoir

Arizona is facing dramatic cuts in water deliveries from the drought-imperiled Colorado River. But many water managers there aren’t that worried due to a long in the works conservation strategy. …  The idea is you bank the water for lean times. The excess is then pumped back out of the ground and into taps in the city about 30 miles east of here. In fact, a lot of Arizona has been banking its Colorado River water in underground reservoirs like this for decades. The state pioneered the practice because it had to, says Kathryn Sorensen. She’s a water policy expert at Arizona State University. … “It’s a secret underground reservoir. You’re right. Most people really aren’t that interested in water issues until there’s a crisis.”

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Aquafornia news Bloomberg

The world has a $1 trillion La Nina problem

Deadly floods in Pakistan. Scorching heat and wildfires in the US West. Torrential rains in Australia and Indonesia. A megadrought in Brazil and Argentina. As climate change pushes weather disasters to new extremes, it’s La Nina, an atmospheric phenomenon, that has been the driver behind the chaos since mid-2020. And now the planet stands on the cusp of something that’s only happened twice since 1950 – three years of La Nina. Another year of La Nina means the world is hurtling toward $1 trillion in weather-disaster damages by the time 2023 wraps up.

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Flaming Gorge loses water as drought felt higher up Colorado River

As a 20-year drought creeps ever farther up the Colorado River Basin and seven Western states vie for their fair share of water under the century-old Colorado River Compact, [Flaming Gorge Reservoir] on the Wyoming-Utah line is a new flashpoint. Nobody disputes the root of the problem: The agreement dates to a cooler, wetter time and is based on assumptions about precipitation that simply no longer apply, in part due to climate change. But as business owners like [Tony] Valdez are finding out firsthand, recreation is just one of many competing priorities while growing demand in the basin’s more populous downstream states — California, Nevada and Arizona — conflicts with dwindling supply from the more rural states upstream — Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. 

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Desert farms in Utah flourish with water from Colorado River 

The second driest state in the country, Utah, doesn’t contribute much water to the Colorado River as it flows from Rocky Mountain headwaters through Canyonlands National Park to Lake Powell. Utah has a unique position in the middle of the river basin, geographically and politically, and it wields less influence than thirstier and more populous states like Colorado, California and Arizona. Its sprawling urban centers along the Wasatch Front, which are home to 80% of the state’s population, are outside of the Colorado River Basin and are less dependent on the river than cities like Phoenix or Las Vegas. Only 27% of the water used in Utah comes from the Colorado River, with the majority of the state’s water supply coming from other rivers that feed into the Great Salt Lake.

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Aquafornia news The Fresno Bee

$5 million partnership with farmworkers could solve the Valley’s water woes

David Villarino-González envisions a day when rural communities finally have clean drinking water, and when crops on farmworker cooperatives thrive through droughts or wet seasons. His dream, which isn’t that far-fetched, could be a game changer in a parched San Joaquín Valley whose livelihood depends on water. Cadiz Ranch and the Farmworkers Institute of Education & Leadership Development (FIELD)_ announced Thursday a $5 million partnership to set up an innovative center to train farmworkers on state-of-the-art technology that produces clean water. The ranch has 45,000 acres in the Mojave Desert where it will teach people about water conservation, groundwater management and sustainable agriculture.

Aquafornia news New Times San Luis Obispo

SGMA tightrope: How well does the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin groundwater sustainability plan stand up to scrutiny?

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act is designed to force an end to groundwater depletion but does not actually “kick in” until 2040. A requirement to create a sustainability plan for the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin was submitted by the county, rejected, and then resubmitted. The plan had to select a target for conservation and chose the 2017 water storage levels, probably because that was when the memorandum of agreement was signed by parties to the plan. 

Aquafornia news KRON4 - San Francisco

How full are Bay Area reservoirs?

Rain may be returning to our forecast, but this storm won’t be enough to end the ongoing drought.  California hasn’t seen significant rainfall and months. The hope is that the rain forecast for this weekend will help the dry conditions and put some more water into our reservoirs. The latest map from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that almost all of California is still experiencing severe to exceptional drought conditions. That includes the Bay Area. In Marin County on Thursday, Lagunitas Creek below Lake Lagunitas has been reduced to a series of stagnant pools of water, but it’s not all bad news.

Aquafornia news Yale Climate Connections

Lithium: Storing more clean power with less pollution

The renewable energy revolution will require the world to ratchet-up lithium production to make batteries for electric cars and devices. As with all mining, there are concerns about lithium mines, but some experts overstate the potential environmental cost while neglecting to mention a big advantage: mining for lithium is much cleaner than mining for coal. …  At the Salton Sea in California, geothermal power plants tap the brine and produce lithium as a byproduct. Estimates show that the Salton Sea holds enough lithium to provide all projected future U.S. needs for the battery metal, and 40 percent of the world’s future needs, according to experts cited in the video.

Aquafornia news KSBW - Monterey

Pesticide found in surface water in California over past decade

Contaminated water has been found in urban areas in California, including the affects to the Central Coast, according to data released by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. Imidacloprid is a neonicotinoid (or neonics), a pesticide that is also linked to bee die-offs. These pesticides are shown to disrupt the nervous system of bees, other insects and songbirds causing paralysis and death. … According to the CDPR, this insecticide can remain in the soil for long periods of time and be transported by rain or irrigation systems, which leads to contamination in California’s water.

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Aquafornia news Capitol Weekly

Water treatment systems not up to snuff, auditor says

Already battered by drought, dwindling supplies and climate change, California’s water treatment systems also suffer from problems that raise the specter of long-term health issues, according to a state report. Those findings – and others – were contained in an audit  by Michael Tilden, California’s acting state auditor. The audit, released in July, focused on the State Water Resources Control Board (better known as the Water Board), which regulates the condition of water across California. Despite the State Water Board’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the legislation that protects clean state water, Tilden’s audit found that the state of clean water across California needs improvement.